Monday, March 25, 2013

1920's Easter Dresses - Finished!

I finished our Easter Dresses in time to post them in the Facebook group for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #6. There are still a few things I think I will modify before Easter but the dresses are, in essence, done.

It is an odd sensation to dress up a daughter for Easter. It is quite different from dressing up little boys, though I am not quite sure why. While Anne has several lovely (and as of yet unworn) modern dresses that would have worked quite well for Easter I felt that I really wanted to make her a historical dress for her first Easter. 

I haven't made an Easter dress for myself for quite a while. It was fun to put some thought into making my own dress "special". I do not often wear white as it is not a practical color to mother 4 children in but for Easter one can bypass some practicalities and enjoy the frivolity of an impractical dress!  

I made Anne's baby cap to be non-matching, as, in the end, I felt a matching cap would be too costumey. A white cap is much more appropriate for "real" costuming, I think.

I used a white cotton handkerchief that was trimmed with narrow cotton lace for the cap. I cut a full width of it for the brim and put in a few teeny tucks.

The rest of the handkerchief was sufficient to cut a U shaped crown (the lace at the bottom edge). I put two pleats at the back neck for some shaping and added some ties and a little ribbon flower for decoration. Ta da! Very easy since all the edges were already finished for me!

She tried on her dress with a little white ruffled slip, tights, shoes and a modern onesie. I think I'd like to make her some drawers/pantaloons before next Sunday; something to keep her legs a bit warmer and for a bit of prettiness if her dress skirt gets pushed up (as it often does when she is carried around) and so one does not see just tight-clad fat baby legs. 

I am pretty happy with how my dress came out but still want to work on the sash a bit. It is not a tied sash, but rather a belt with separate hanging end "ties". I need to tighten up the belt just a tad and probably sew the ties to the belt somehow so they stay where they are supposed to instead of slipping around. 

I really like the early 20's silhouette. It is easy and comfortable to wear. The skirts are still quite long during this time and the waistline just slightly dropped - the waistline for these years varies quite a bit to almost-normal to the top of the hip. Mine is just about to the top of the hip, but not on the hip. I used my basic 1920's bodice for the bodice, modified for a center front panel and shawl collar, and the skirt is a rectangle pleated at the side fronts and side backs. The sleeves are close fitted short sleeves with a pleated flounce, open at the front arm.

I stayed away from the 20's for so long because I thought I did not have the right figure to wear these styles. I am very hour-glassy in shape which is completely different from the slim, boyish figure so popular during this era. But women of all shapes and sizes existed in the 20's. From looking at family pictures, even, one sees that the motherly, rounded figure was the *norm* among, well, mothers and they still looked graceful and fashionable in attire from the 20's, even though they did not have the flat, bust-and-hip-less figure in vogue at the time. I'm so glad I did end up trying out the 20's. It's fabulous! I think every woman can find a way to make any style work for her, because there is no "one right way". There is lots of variety in every era and I think anyone can find *some* version of their era that will look right and look pretty.

I ought to wear a corset (one similar to my 1910's corset) but I didn't fit the dress to be worn over that, just modern undergarments. I made the bodice to be slightly blousy as was popular then but it is not as flattering to me as a smooth line. So, perhaps someday I will take in the bodice an inch or so on each side so I don't have excess width to blouse up when the belt is worn. For now though, I am not too worried about it.

So below are the summaries for my dress and Anne's dress for the challenge:


The Challenge: Stripes

Fabric: 100% cotton voile with a woven-in stripe

Pattern: I used the Sense and Sensibility Girl's Regency Dress pattern as a base for the bodice. I modified it by redrawing the seams (eliminated curved back seam and eliminated the drop shoulder seam and positioned the seam right on top of the shoulder instead). The skirt was a rectangle and the sleeve ruffles and all other ruffles rectangles. Easy. 

Year: 1922-1924 (early 20's) 

Notions: Thread, snaps.

How historically accurate is it? 

Well, I don't know. It is copied as directly as possible from an original dress that I had only one photo of and could not see details on. So the construction of the dress was guesswork - dresses like this are pretty straightforward, but I do not know if my construction is accurate to the early 20's. The fabric is certainly accurate, the overall shape is accurate and the finished dress looks much like what I envisioned when I started out. The original dress was made for a little girl of a few years old. This dress was made for an 8 month old baby so obviously, that is a difference right there. 

Hours to complete: This took most of 2 days to sew. It was mostly machine sewn so that sped up the construction. Perhaps 8 hours or so?

First worn: Today, to try on. Meant for Easter!

Total cost: The fabric was about $10 for a little over a yard (55" wide). I did not use all the fabric for this dress. I also bought a box of dye since the fabric I bought was bright yellow. The dye was about $1.50. The snaps came from the stash. I did have to buy some thread - another $2. So about $13.50 altogether? The cap was made from a lace trimmed cotton handkerchief that someone gave us ages ago.

The Challenge: Stripes

Fabric: Linen blend with a woven stripe. Off-white in color. Sash, collar and hem are of cream organza. The lace is a heavy cream color (unknown fiber; the lace and organza came from a curtain.) 

Pattern: My own, based on 1920's pattern shapes. The bodice was draped, the skirt is a rectangle pleated to fit and the sleeves are based on similar styles seen in early 20's dress advertisements.

Year: Early 1920's 

Notions: Thread. No fasteners. This is a slip-on style.

How historically accurate is it? 

The materials are dubious, fiber-wise. I pattern shapes are in line with patterns shown in Women's Wear of the 1920's which depict patterns taken from original dresses. Machine stitching. Construction was a guess.

Hours to Complete: Maybe 6. 

First Worn: For pictures. Meant for Easter.

Total Cost: All stash materials! I'm glad to have found a use for the striped linen blend. I've had it for several years and got it second hand; 5 yards of it cost me $1.30. The curtain was free.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Stripey Ruffly Baby Dress ~ Sneak Peek

Anne's dress is coming along. I did not end up getting a roll hem foot because I was too impatient to wait to get one, so this dress is coming out looking a lot clunkier than the original dress, which you can see here (didn't link to it in the last post; bad me.) 1922-1924 White Ruffled Cotton Lawn Dress.
The color and ruffles reminds me of baby lettuce leaves!

Mine is not an exact copy. It is made of striped voile instead of plain white lawn which was originally a sickly hue of greenish-lemon-yellow that I dyed with a box of teal RIT dye. Because this dress is being made for a baby instead of a child who is several years old (the owner of the original dress was born in 1919) I could not without extreme difficulty shrink the proportions of the dress properly. It was soooo hard to make 1" wide ruffles! I just could not go any narrower without having the hems look larger than the center portion of the ruffle! So I have just 5 ruffles on the skirt, set 1" apart, instead of the 7 ruffles the original dress has. And my treatment of the sleeve ruffles (single instead of double) and the neckline ruffles (which I may, very possibly may, take off and redo) are different.

But I am actually really happy with how it is coming out. True, tiny things bother me. Like a few of the skirt ruffles are not exactly the same width as the other ruffles. But really who is going to notice? So I try to reassure myself.

The baby tried it on last night and it looks so adorable on her. Of course, she looks adorable in anything (at least I think so) but the color is great for her and the style is feminine without being uncomfortable. I remember being so miserable in scratchy lace and net-underskirted-dresses when I was little! I loved the frilly dresses but always thought the price for beauty was uncomfortable-ness. ;) The size is a little big, on purpose. The waist is not fitted and the skirt goes all the way down to the tops of her teeny pink toes. She should be able to wear it for a while.
For some reason the neckline ruffles bug me. I think it is the header on the lower ruffle  - it just kind of jars me. Not sure how to go about fixing this. Unless I just bind take off the top ruffle, bind the neckline and add a ruffle with a header above the lower one. That may look better. 

I still need to probably redo the neckline ruffle and then finish a few seams, add a few snaps to the back opening and then the dress will be done. I have plenty of fabric left over so I want to make a matching baby bonnet to go with the dress. And maybe a sash?

Speaking of my little lady, she turned 8 months old yesterday. I can't believe she is already this old. She is a true joy and I can't imagine our family without her now that she is here!

I'm still kind of in awe I even was pregnant and had a baby - it all still seems surreal to me. We all love her so much. She's bubbly and funny and happy and looks so much like her daddy. He's pleased at least one child looks like him. The boys really do not. 

I think she rounds our family out rather nicely! I need to buckle down and finish our dresses today or tomorrow. I still need to finish the sash for my own dress and decide on a style for Anne's bonnet.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stripey Eastery Sleeves

Working on the next challenge for the Historic Sew Fortnightly. Or actually, on Easter dresses. Both the baby and I will have stripey Easter dresses so it worked out well for this challenge, which is, simply ,stripes. 

My dress is close to being done and then I'll be making a gazillion ruffles for the baby's dress which will be of minty sheer striped cotton voile. 

(Not quite that many ruffles, true, but I do think it will take a while. I may invest in a roll-hem foot for the sewing machine but am afraid I would not know how to use it! But it may be be better than measuring, pressing, and sewing the tops *and* bottoms of so many ruffles, which will then need to be, well, ruffled and attached. 
original dress I am using as my main inspiration for Anne's dress

The baby's dress material  cost about $10 and mine was all from the stash, so these will be very inexpensive Easter dresses!

And more importantly, do not forget that today The Hobbit movie is now available for purchase! Yeay!!!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Finding of An Early 1900's Brassiere

Sorry I can't be more specific. Early 1900's is quite in general. But I cannot really get more specific than that due to my lack of knowledge. I'm not even totally sure this really *is* what I think it might be; but I really do think it is. A brassiere, from the 1900-1920 period. (again, sorry, I can't be more specific. If anyone can help me out, pleeeeaasseeee!! Do so!) Possible other things it could be: Corset cover (but it is not very long; it ends just below the bustline so would not really do much for covering a corset.) Camisole for under a blouse (but again, it ends right below the bustline). Any other ideas?

Anyway, on Saturday we took Judah to participate in some inter-church sporting competition for the Bible club he is part of. (His team got first place! So proud of my guy!) Then after that we went to a local site that makes and sells maple syrup. (They do not distribute it, and they make it in limited quantities and it's so. awesome.) Then after that we stopped by an antique mall on the way home and the boys had fun shrieking out "Mommy! Daddy! Look at this!" every few minutes whenever they found something that interested them. I didn't see much to interest me, and the baby was squirmy and over-tired and fussy, but then, I spotted this:

Doesn't it really look like a brassiere from this period? I mean, doesn't it?! And only $3. I got it and brought it home. I tried it on. (carefully.) It fits me perfectly and it definitely fits like a bra. The bottom band goes right below the bust, the shoulder straps and neckline fit perfectly and the whole garment contains the bust but does not offer anything by way of support. Just contain-ment.

I plan to take a pattern off of it and make a reproduction of it at some point. Soon. And when I do, I'll post about how I do it. But for now, here are some pictures to show it and how it was constructed. It is really a simple little thing. Almost all rectangles.

That's all for now. We had snow again a few days ago. Just when I thought the weather had turned permanently warm. But ah well. It was a very pretty snowfall and we did not have much of that this winter. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Peasants and Pioneers - Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge # 5

It was rainy, warm and pearl-grey yesterday. The birds were returning. I could hear them overhead. Some lighted in the wet fields, some in the sparse trees. The wind was full of wings. I was with the man I love and could smell the good smell of earth. Spring is coming!

He trod the grass in big boots; my shoes were soon soaked through with water. Melting snow and days of steady rain had saturated the ground and it was spongey. The garden was a great rectangle of mud.

Still! To be out after winter. It is a euphoric feeling. I found in the beds by the house small green things pushing out of the dirt; the ivy a mass of color flourishing at the base of the red brick chimney.

After last years drought it was a joy to see the puddles. An old friend of ours who stopped by in the afternoon told us that one month after the willows start to change color it is time to plant. And, he said, they began to change two weeks ago.

It is a happy time.


The Challenge: Peasants and Pioneers - c. 1860 work dress made of 3 yards of purple wool plaid. Dart fitted bodice, hand gathered skirt and two piece fitted sleeves (pieced). 

Fabric: wool 

Pattern: My own, based on mid-19th century construction and pattern shapes.

Year: 1855-ish-1865-ish. (unfashionable garment, so can work, theoretically, for a wider span of years.)

Notions: Hooks and eyes, thread.

How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I can make it. Hand stitching where appropriate and machine stitching with straight stitch on machine where appropriate. Period construction techniques and pattern shapes.

Hours to complete: Maybe 12?

First worn: Yesterday, in the rain!

Total cost: $12 for the wool fabric. The lining for the bodice, sleeves and hem facing were from the stash.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Dress of Purple Plaid

The next Sew Fortnightly challenge is "Peasants and Pioneers". My project isn't done yet, but I'm working on it. I got a lot done today so should have the dress totally done by this weekend. I tried it on today for the final fitting. The sleeves are tight, but I knew they would be, so I think all is well to finish it up and call it good.

I found the fabric a few weeks ago at an antique mall. It's a semi coarse wool. There were only 3 yards of it but it was only $12 for the whole piece.

I contemplated making David a frock coat out of it (wouldn't a purple plaid frock coat be amazingly awesome?!) but he didn't spring for the idea with as much passion as I had hoped. Sarah from A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle suggested a very plain, working-class dress. The more I thought about the more I was drawn to the idea, so that is what I did. It worked well for the category of the challenge. This is about as peasanty and pioneery as I can get!
In-construction. At a point where I was considering skirt trim.

There were only three yards, so first I cut and set aside two full width panels for the skirt. The less-than-a-yard that remained was sufficient to cut out my basic bodice. There was a long skinny piece of fabric left. I had to piece the sleeves (each sleeve is made of 3 pieces) and the sleeves are a bit short, and quite tight, but I made it! Whew. I was worried I wasn't going to be able to. I cut the itty bitty scraps that were left over into bias strips and eeked out enough for piping for the neckline, armscyes and waistline. The sleeves are lined with pale blue cotton and are wide enough at the hem so I can roll or push them up to my elbows.

The bodice is darted-to-fit, as that was a common treatment for wools during the mid-19th century. (silks too; though cottons generally were gathered-to-fit over a darted lining). The bodice is flat lined with pale blue cotton that I cannibalized from some thrifted curtains.
Excuse the hat. . .yes, it is a mans hat. But I didn't feel like doing my hair in a period style just to check the fit of the dress, so it hides the farbism.

Other than that there is not much to say about it. It's so plain. The only cool thing about it is the color. I like the vivid purple plaid.
The back is cut in 3 pieces to help add to the illusion of a little waist.

I plan to wear it with a neckerchief instead of a collar, an apron and bonnet. No hoops. For these pics I tried it on over my corded petticoat and my brown checked "work" petticoat. Another plain petticoat or two will help the skirts pouf out nicely.

It will be just the thing to wear to our first event in May, where David will be portraying a Confederate. This dress seems very Confederate-y. I have long been pro-Union (not in personal sentiment, but because I feel that is being most true to my would-have-been self, since I am a native Rhode Islander) but it feels right to be Confederate this year. The boys and the baby and I will visit him at his hospital portraying a local farmwife offering eggs and first garden produce for sale for the sick and injured.


Friday, March 1, 2013

The Re-Made Regency Gown

So, here are some pics!

A yellow wool shawl (piano scarf? maybe?) I found at the thrift store seemed to go pretty well with the dress (the embroidery is machined though, sadly). And I tried out the mitts.

Conclusion: Mitts are way too enormously huge. I think if I take the seam in about an inch they will fit much better. And I can take more away from the top side of the mitt so that the embroidery is more centered on the hand. It all works out.

I am so much happier now with how this dress fits. It feels right. That isn't very technical but if you've ever worn something that doesn't feel right you know what I mean.

The only thing I don't like is how the skirt kind of pulls a bit at center front. I think it is because the bodice rises up a bit at center front, pulling the skirt with it, so it makes the skirt lay weird across the front. However, this is certainly not a "nice" dress and would have probably been worn for home activities and work. I will likely wear an apron with it when I do wear it so the state of the skirt is not a huge concern at this point.

Since I shortened the waistline a bit the skirt is consequently a bit shorter, too. But, that is okay too. #1 Skirts were worn a bit shorter in this period. #2 An "active wear" dress would have had a shorter hem length anyway.

I did my front hair in pin curls this morning and by lunch they had dried enough to take them out. Fluffy hair. Not sure how I feel about this style yet but it's better than a modern hairstyle, anyway. Dratted half-grown-out-bangs.

I am really glad I remade this dress. It's a great feeling. There are only a few months left in the regency costume challenge so I need to devote the remaining projects to things I really don't have - a nice basic silk bonnet, a coat of some kind, very plain. Perhaps another apron since the white one will easily soil and something in a check and a darker color would be very practical to have.


Remaking the Green Regency Gown

Two years ago I made this dress: Green Regency Daydress. I copied the style from one in Costume in Detail and it came out looking a lot like the original! Good, right?

I never wore it. *blush* I did put it on a few times but I never actually wore it out of the house. Why? I just didn't like how it looked on me. It wasn't fitted very well and the style, with the loose sleeves, just made me look like I was wearing an ill-fitting muumuu.
oh-so-not-flattering. : /

I do like the fabric though, so I thought at some point I would remake it so it would fit a little better. What with missing last months regency challenge I thought it would be a good time to finally pull this thing apart and put it back together. With this dress I have 4 regency dresses and another outfit (white swiss dot evening gown, white striped day dress with removable undersleeves, cream checked drawstring dress, plus my spencer/petticoat outfit) I really have no need at all for any additional ones, so it is a better use of my time to remake what I already have rather than make new.

On Wednesday afternoon I tore the dress apart, removing the sleeves and taking the skirt off the bodice. Yesterday I set about putting it back together.

There were a few things I wanted to change with this version of the dress:

1. I wanted the bodice to fit well. (no drawstrings to take up ease, and a fitted lining)

2. I wanted the sleeves to fit well.

3. I wanted the waistline to be a tad higher. I made this dress to go over different stays that required a slightly lower waistline.

The first thing I did, after picking out the threads and pressing the pieces, was to take out some of the excess width in the back by putting in curved side back seams.

Here is the back bodice with the side back pieces sewn. You can see that by adding this seam, it significantly shortened the length of the back bodice.

This is fine with me since often in dresses from this period you will see the waistline in the back curves to be higher than the waistline in the front. It gives a more elegant, fluid line. I trimmed off the excess length at center back and everything was fine.

I then sewed the side seams and tried the bodice on. I had to take in the side seams about an inch on either side to get it to fit nicely. After that, I put the bodice on inside-out and pinned darts in the lining.
In all these fitting pics, you can see the stays above the long V neck opening. I will wear the dress with a kerchief or (when I make one) a chemisette to hide the stays.

The dress was originally made with the lining gathered-to-fit, but that gave a rather poufy silhouette to the bust. A fitted lining makes the gathers of the bodice to be pulled close to the body to avoid unnecessary visual bulk!

Now I could gather the fashion fabric at the bottom of the bodice to the fitted lining. MUCH better!!

My next area of concern was the armscye. When I made this dress I cut the armscye to hit very close to the shoulder edge. This gave a boxy appearance to the shoulders, especially when combined with the gathered sleeves. I cut a LOT away from the armscye and also cut the armscye in the back to be much deeper.
The pins sort of showing where the front armscye needs to be trimmed. 
For the sleeves I used my basic 18th c. style sleeve and cut it off just below the elbow. It fitted well into the armscye of the dress. Here is the bodice with the sleeves sewn in:

I didn't take any pictures during the re-do of the skirt but it was fairly simple. The original skirt was gathered to fit the back but this time I pleated it. I put in two small pleats at either side of the front skirt as this gives a better line (at least for me) than having the skirt totally straight all the way across.

I hemmed the sleeves, finished some inside seams, fixed the back buttons and now the dress is ready to wear! I'll have some finished pics later.

In the meantime, Judah and Malachi found a cat outside yesterday, a poor, skinny, starving, purry, grey-faced, golden-eyed kitty. She's a girl, and she has no name. We call her "The Skinny Cat". We will keep it, at least til it is fatter and healthier. Then we'll see what we'll see.